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Tim Pawlenty loves federal spending (on flood relief)

Suddenly loving federal cash.
Suddenly loving federal cash.

Yesterday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty was loving federal spending.

Not the kind to help all Minnesotans with their health care costs, however. Just the kind to help southern Minnesota recover from floods.

The former isn't a priority, he says. He won't even allow state agencies to access federal grants to help implement health care reform measures.

But he called the Legislature to a special session yesterday to approve relief for counties hurt by flooding after the the region was declared a federal disaster area.

The designation means the feds pick up three-quarters of the recovery costs while the state picks up the rest -- about $80 million.

DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina was happy to call out Pawlenty for suddenly finding love in his heart for a truckload of federal cash, even as he campaigns around the country, biting the hand that's feeding him.

"I find a little irony in being here," he said. "When the chips are down, the chumps get going, and in this case out to Washington D.C. with not just one hand out, but two."

After signing the bill, reporters asked Pawlenty about why he was OK with federal flood relief, but not health care dollars passed by Congress. Pawlenty's reply: You can't have health care reform because you don't need it.

"Responding to emergencies and natural disasters is one of the most important priorities for government," he replied. "It's very different from furthering participation in a piece of health care reform that I think is misguided, and something the country shouldn't do and doesn't need."

Here's the breakdown for state money for flood relief: 

Flooding:

  • $12 million to the Department of Public Safety for assistance to stet agencies
  • $15 million to the Department of Transportation to repair and maintain highways and bridges.
  • $10 million to the Department of Employment and Economic Development for business assistance;
  • $250,000 to the Minnesota Historical Society to repair and replace historic structures.
  • $14 million to the Department of Natural Resources for facility repair and flood hazard mitigation grants.
  • $4 million to the Department of Agriculture for Livestock Investment Grants.

Wadena tornado:

  • $5.2 million to the Department of Public Safety for publicly owned capital improvement projects.
  • $750,000 to the Department of Employment and Economic Development for Wadena to design replacements for destroyed public facilities.
  • $693,000 to the Department of Education for operating and pupil transportation grants.

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